Thursday, December 22, 2005

More on the NSA Controversy

National Review Online has a PDF of a letter from the Department of Justice to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the NSA controversy. In it Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella outlines in very clear language the President’s case for warrantless intelligence gathering.

The letter starts out by stating that the program was aimed at international communications of people linked to terrorist organizations. It goes on to state that the leak was a criminal act and that it has jeopardized our national security by exposing a covert program.

Further on in the letter, it says that the President has the power and responsibility under Article II of the Constitution to protect the people of the United States, and that the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) of September 16th, 2001, as well as the War Powers Resolution recognize the President’s power to act to protect the United States—including the power to order warrantless foreign intelligence gathering within the United States. It mentions several Supreme Court cases that recognized precisely that power in the President.

The letter also discusses FISA’s relationship to other laws, particularly AUMF. It states that the FISA cannot supersede the President’s authority under Article II of the Constitution. It then goes on to discusses issues in regard to Article IV of the Constitution, and states precedence where the Supreme Court has long recognized “special needs, beyond the normal needs of law enforcement”.

The letter closes by saying that Congress had been brief 12 times and that the order had been reviewed every 45 days to evaluate the necessity of continuing the program.

The people jumping to conclusions of criminality on this one would be well advised to follow the link and read the letter in its entirety before going any further out on a partisan limb. One also has to wonder if the same people who howled about the Plame affair will howl just as loudly about the leak leading to this dustup. So far, the silence is deafening.

Not only does is it beginning to look as though Bush exercised full diligence as to his the Constitutional limits of his powers, it also looks as though he exercised full diligence in regards to his Constitutional responsibilities. Add to all the above the fact that Associate Attorney General under Clinton, John Scmidt, has come out in support of Bush’s power to take the action he has and this is looking more and more like a cheap political hit on a sitting President—with our political institutions and intelligence gathering abilities as collateral damage.

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